With only seven games left to play in the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) regular season for both Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-16 and U-18 Residency teams, the push for playoff spots is in full gear.
Late last month, the Residency squads earned split results against visiting Southern California-based outfit Pateadores, with Whitecaps FC U-18’s defeating their West Conference rivals 1-0, while the ‘Caps U-16 squad fell to a 1-0 defeat. Following this Thursday’s match-up, Residency teams will be on the road for their next two games, which is why technical director and head coach Richard Grootscholten stresses the importance of making the most of their home advantage this week. “You have to give something extra in home games,” explained Grootscholten. “Our next two weekends away are tough games, so this is an important one that we absolutely have to win.”
On Thursday, the Residency squads square off against USSDA West Conference, Northwest Division rivals California Odyssey. The visitors are familiar foes for the ‘Caps Residency after a rather eventful clash last February. “Cal Odyssey is a tough, hard working team who are very physical,” said Grootscholten. “They won’t be travelling up here just to hand over points, so we’re expecting a tough match.”
The U-18 Residency squad (12W-4L-3D) will play first at 5 p.m. PT versus Cal Odyssey’s U-17/18 squad (4W-12L-5D), followed by the U-16 Residency squad (19W-11L-5D) taking on Cal Odyssey’s U-15/16 side (4W-16L-1D) at 7:30 p.m. PT. Both matches take place at Simon Fraser University Field #4 in Burnaby, British Columbia.
The U-18 ‘Caps head into Thursday’s match with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, as they were held to a 2-2 draw in their last meeting with Cal Odyssey U-17/18’s after being reduced to nine men following the sendings off of goalkeeper Sean Melvin and striker Caleb Clarke.
“The U-18’s still have a bad taste in their mouth after our last game with Cal Odyssey and they’ll be looking to get some revenge,” said Grootscholten. “We missed a lot of opportunities to win that game and lost two points in my opinion.”
The U-18 Residency squad currently sit third in the West Conference, Northwest Division standings, but have only played eight conference matches, compared to most teams who have played 11 USSDA games. With four of their last seven matches being played on home turf, the ‘Caps squad will be looking to move up the table and will have a full squad at the ready on Thursday.
The U-16 ‘Caps squad will also have to be on their toes, as their Northwest Division rivals are in desperate need of points. The ‘Caps defeated Cal Odyssey U-15/16’s 3-0 in their first meeting last February, but are still shaking off last month's 1-0 defeat to Pateadores. Prior to their last match, the U-16 Residency squad had gone undefeated in five straight matches, so this week, they will be looking to get back to winning ways in order to move up in the standings.
“We’re going into the final games now,” explained Grootscholten. “If we can focus on our own game and get some wins in the next three or four matches, we’ll make the playoffs, so it’s important that we put a winning team on the pitch.”
Following this Thursday’s match-ups, Whitecaps FC Residency squads hit the road for their next two games, beginning with a set of matches against California-based club De Anza Force on Saturday, April 21.